SAN DIEGO – When 7-year-old Danielle van Dam vanished in February, her neighbors turned out in droves to help find her.
But the reaction was muted on Wednesday as word came down that a neighbor, David Westerfield, had been convicted of kidnapping and murdering the child and could receive the death penalty.
Most residents watched the news quietly in their homes. Some drove away immediately afterward, apparently heading to jobs or trying to avoid reporters who descended on the Sabre Springs neighborhood.
Across the street from Westerfield's home, someone posted a sign that read: "Please NO media. Thank you."
Some neighbors welcomed the guilty verdicts.
"I wanted to cry. I'm glad that they found somebody guilty, and that we can all rest and feel a little more safe in the neighborhood," Vicki Sanders said. "It kind of puts closure on everything right now."
Karen Broderick, 38, said she felt "extreme joy" when she heard the verdicts.
"In my heart I felt he was guilty," said Broderick, a mother of three young children. "I feel safe knowing that he is not going to be able to do that to anybody else's child."
Broderick, who lives just a few houses away from Westerfield, said she quickly shared the news with her children.
"I told them he had been found guilty," she said. "They said, 'What does that mean?"'
Broderick planned to use the news as a way to talk to her children about safety.
Steven Vegas, 18, stopped his car to answer questions from reporters.
"I'm glad the guy is out of here," he said. "I am surprised it took as long as it did."
Not everyone condemned Westerfield. Jim Nagatani, 84, was strolling with his wife when asked for his reaction.
"I kind of feel sympathetic. He doesn't look like a cruel person," said Nagatani, who opposes the death penalty. "You've got to expect a lifetime sentence. Too bad it has to be that way. He is a human being like I am. I am sure he has regrets."
However, James Leonard, 42, said the guilty verdict had restored his sense of safety.
"This kind of jury coming up with a verdict like this really sends a message to anybody who might be thinking of doing something like this," Leonard said. "If you go after children you will pay the price."